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Opposition piles on the agony for govt

Updated January 24, 2019

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LEADER of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif speaking on the floor of the house.
LEADER of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif speaking on the floor of the house.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday presented the second mini-budget of the six-month-old Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government amid the opposition’s uproar during the National Assembly session marked by a rare presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The prime minister, who was last seen in the assembly on Oct 3, entered the house at a time when Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif was lambasting the federal and the Punjab governments over handling of the Sahiwal incident.

“Imran Khan had himself stated in the past that the then Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif should resign and the then home minister Rana Sanaullah should be arrested [over the police action in Model Town]. Now according to his own words, first the prime minister should submit his resignation and then (Punjab Chief Minister) Usman Buzdar should resign,” Mr Sharif said, amid desk-thumping by the opposition members.

Shahbaz asks PM, Punjab CM to resign over Sahiwal tragedy; Imran attends NA session after hiatus of over three months

Mr Sharif regretted that despite announcements by the provincial and the federal ministers, the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe the Sahiwal tragedy had not been presented before the house.

The opposition leader challenged the claim made by the Punjab ministers that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, police officers had been removed from their office within 72 hours of an incident and recalled that a number of police officials had been removed from their posts on the night of the Model Town tragedy in 2014 when he was the chief minister. He said that instead of constituting a JIT, he had formed a judicial commission under a high court judge to investigate the matter.

Moreover, he said, Rana Sanaullah had voluntarily submitted his resignation from the office of home minister within days after the Model Town tragedy.

Mr Sharif said Mr Khan had nominated a person as Punjab chief minister who could not speak without his permission.

He also taunted the prime minister for attending a National Assembly sitting after more than three and a half months, and called him “the selected prime minister”.

Instead of the prime minister, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi respon­ded to Mr Sharif’s speech, alleging that by raising the Sahiwal issue on the budget day, the opposition leader had violated the understanding that had been reached between the treasury and the opposition members in a meeting presided over by Speaker Asad Qaiser before start of the sitting.

Mr Qureshi said the government did not intend to protect any police official involved in the Sahiwal killing of innocent people. He said the JIT had declared that Khalil and his family members were innocent and they were murdered. However, he said, the JIT had sought time to conduct more investigation about Zeeshan, the fourth victim of the CTD encounter.

“No responsible person will go unpunished,” Mr Qureshi declared, saying the government had decided to hold the trial of the Counter Terrorism Depart­ment officials in an anti-terrorism court. Pledging fair and transparent trial, he promised that all the “facts” about the incident would be brought before the nation.

Later, the finance minister presented the Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment) Bill 2019 and delivered his budget speech which could not be heard clearly in the galleries due to the opposition’s noisy protest.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019